Donald Trump leads the GOP primary race, but Marco Rubio’s exit leaves Ted Cruz within striking distance and Trump may not secure the delegates he needs for an outright majority at the GOP convention. So maybe his backers will riot…. (More)

At the Races, Part I: GOP Chaos

This week Morning Feature looks at the status of the 2016 races. Today we begin with the chaos in the GOP. Tomorrow we’ll see the comparative clarity in the Democratic presidential primary. Saturday we’ll look at each party’s prospects for November.

“If Mr. Trump maintains his current level of support …”

As of 8am this morning, Donald Trump has 673 of the 1237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination. Ted Cruz’s 411 delegates put him within striking distance, and John Kasich trails the active field with 143.

But Marco Rubio dropped out Tuesday night after his crushing defeat in Florida. As for his 169 delegates, he hasn’t yet decided whether to endorse John Kasich or Ted Cruz, but he quasi-endorsed Kasich last week in the lead-up to Ohio. If he formalizes that and his delegates follow his lead, that would bring Kasich to 312 delegates, still not enough to reach the 1237 threshold before the convention. If Rubio endorsed Cruz – and, again, if his delegates followed his lead – that would bring Cruz up to 580 delegates … still almost 100 behind Trump.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson has endorsed Trump, he claims in trade for a promised post in a Trump White House, and Mike Huckabee appeared at Trump rallies in Arkansas.

Their 9 delegates would bring Trump’s total to 682, and he would need to win 52% of the 1061 delegates in the remaining primaries. As the New York Times summarized it:

Donald J. Trump’s series of victories on Tuesday extended his delegate lead and forced Senator Marco Rubio of Florida out of the presidential race. Mr. Trump’s path to winning enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination is not assured, but he is in a strong position.
[…]
If Mr. Trump maintains his current level of support in the remaining races, he would almost certainly secure the nomination.

“I think you’d have riots”

But that’s a big ‘if,’ as the remaining primaries will be less Trump-friendly:

Trump’s strength has so far been in open primaries and Southern states. But the complexion of the remaining contests isn’t quite so favorable. The South is done voting, and 14 of the remaining 22 contests are closed primaries – a format where Cruz has performed better. Trump has been beatable in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, where Cruz and Kasich should combine to peel away big chunks of delegates.

Add to that the fact that only six of the remaining GOP primaries are winner-take-all, and winning an outright majority is hardly a done deal. But yesterday Trump said the GOP should give him the nod anyway … and threatened violence if they don’t:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday that a contested GOP convention could be a disaster if he goes to Cleveland a few delegates shy of 1,237 — and doesn’t leave as the party’s nominee.

“I think you’d have riots,” Trump said on CNN.

Noting that he’s “representing many millions of people,” Trump told host Chris Cuomo: “If you disenfranchise those people, and you say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re 100 votes short’ … I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.”

Of course Trump went on to say he wouldn’t “lead” the riots. Instead, he claimed his supporters are so passionate that they would riot anyway. I’ll pause while you take in the irony of a man who says he’ll dictate terms to foreign leaders and Congress, and make U.S. businesses force their employees to say “Merry Christmas” … but he’s helpless to stop his own followers from rioting.

“I think we’ve had enough debates”

He’s also ended the Republican debates:

A scheduled Republican presidential debate in Salt Lake City has been canceled after GOP front-runner Donald Trump announced he would not attend.

Fox News, the network set to host the event, confirmed the news that had been reported by other news organizations earlier after it became apparent Texas Sen. Ted Cruz may be the sole candidate on stage.

“Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich — or both,” Fox News Channel’s Michael Clemente said in a statement. “But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant. So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trump said on Fox News: “I think we’ve had enough debates.”

In short, he’s flipping the bird at GOP leaders … and expecting them to thank him for the birdsh–t. And they probably will, unless and until GOP voters abandon him.

Fortunately, as we’ll see tomorrow, the Democratic race is much calmer….

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Photo Credit: K Johansson (Wikimedia)

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Happy Thursday!